Ah, the hectic lifestyle that we all lead in the 21st century! It leaves nothing to the imagination simply because we have no time for imagination. We are all busy with our schools, jobs, practices, family chores, etc. Sometimes, we just need to take it down a notch, relax, and let the stress and the pressure of such hectic lives just flow out of our bodies.
However, it is not always possible to simply wind down. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t stop thinking about all the obligations that you have. The brain (that stubborn little piece of gray matter that won’t work with you sometimes, even though it’s supposed to be you) needs some distraction- something that will occupy it and make it forget all about the troubles both ahead and behind. Taking up a hobby is a perfect way to do this. It will give you something fun to do while relieving you of the obligations of the serious stuff in life.
The benefits of having something to do in your free time are numerous from helping you take a break, making you physically active, to producing eustress (which is a “positive” kind of stress that keeps you excited about life).
Of course, you can’t just pick any hobby and stick with it. If you don’t like it, it will never work. The point is to find something that you like doing. This way a hobby will be a stress-relief. Here are some of my recommendations for something to do in your spare time which are both productive and stress-relieving.
1. Start writing
Every list that I’ve seen on the internet regarding hobbies does not fail to mention reading books and listening to music as something that you can do for relaxing. Don’t get me wrong, these are great hobbies, but you can take it a step further and really engage the creative side of your brain.
If you start writing you will get a window into a completely new world- a world that you shape and where everything is according to your rules. You don’t have to be an expert writer. Write whatever you want not caring about a single literary device. There are no rules if it is just a hobby. At the same time, it will give you a way to write down your sorrows and the things that keep you on edge. It can also give you a way to examine and thereby deal with those things, if you are creative enough.
The best thing about this is that it is practically free. All you need are some pieces of paper and a pen (writing on your computer is not as relaxing as you’d think). The feel of actually writing is incomparable to anything else. If you are unsure how to start there are creative writing classes available, most of them for free usually as a part of a larger program.
My sister and I are two very different people. For example, while I’m writing this, she’s in the garden plucking the grass, watering the already grown plants and planting new ones. I could never do something like that (I don’t like to get dirty), but I can see the happiness of having a well-nurtured garden in her every move when she’s outside. She does not tire from all the digging, bending, plucking and all the other activities connected to this.
When I ask her how this activity relaxes her, she says it’s all in the subtle symbolism of the flowers and what feelings it evokes in her. She also says that she can activate both the left and the right side of the brain as nurturing the plants needs analytical skills, while arranging them requires creative thinking. Add to this the fact that it provides regular physical activity and you’ll see that she’s right – it really can do wonders for your mind and change your life for the better.
Also, did I mention that you can actually provide for your family this way? There is a woman in Italy who manages to provide for a family of five by producing everything on her own, in her garden. The whole family lives on €5 per day (that’s €150 per month – for comparison, Italy’s minimum wage is €800), but they have everything they need from bread to soap, all homemade and- most of it- from what is grown in the garden. While what she’s doing is more than a hobby, it just goes to show how productive gardening can be.
There are some (like my sister) who dislike writing and think that they have no talent for it, and there are others (like me) who dislike gardening because of the dirt, the hard work and the insects. For those who dislike both, there are other options. Are your hands crafty? Have you tried making things on your own?
Doing it yourself does not always mean making things completely from scratch. You don’t have to be a carpenter and carve a piece of furniture out of a tree trunk all on your own (although, if you think you can do it, go for it, but take some lessons first). You can choose simpler things which will still give you something to do and think about. For example, you could refurbish what you already have. The idea does not have to be yours. There are plenty of suggestions for DIY things online.
I have found some ideas for hand painted wine glasses and- being an artistic soul- I sat down and re-decorated all my wine glasses. While I was doing it, I was focused on the task and it made me oblivious of all the other problems in life.Whenever I’d drink from them, I’d be delighted that I’ve managed to create something new and exciting out of something that I’ve been looking at for years. All it took was a few dollars’ worth of acrylic paint and some time to focus on the painting, and that was it.
When you mention hiking, some people immediately think of a person climbing up a tall mountain with 45-50 pounds of gear strapped to their back, but this is just one way to do it. For the less hardcore out there,( e.g. people like me who can only spare an hour a day for fun physical activities), there are easier trails available. If you have your gear ready to go and live near some good hiking trails, you can hike nearly every day without messing up your hectic daily schedule.
While running or some exercise should be done daily for the sake of your health, they can be monotonous activities. Hiking on the other hand, can take you places you’ve never been before away from the urban jungle of your city/town and into unspoiled nature.
Wherever in the world there is elevated ground, there are hiking trails available. It can even be something as simple as a long walk up a small hill. What’s better, most of these trails are free – all you need is to join a couple of hiking enthusiasts who will take you along. Once you’re at the top of that hill, you’ll feel free like never before and you’ll forget all about the stress that’s been gnawing at your mental health.
5. Sewing and knitting
Finally, for those among you who are physically active enough (constantly living on a hectic timetable can be an extremely tiring activity on its own), settling down in a chair and working with your hands only probably sounds like a 5-star-hotel holiday. That’s exactly what knitting and sewing bring to the table. Add to that the fact that you can create your own wear and be your own fashion designer – what else does a woman need?
Knitting is something that you don’t need to invest much in, although it is a bit more complicated than sewing. You need to buy some down and learn some knitting patterns and you’re good to go. However, it takes great skill with your hands to make every pattern as good as it should be.
Sewing, on the other hand, will probably require you to purchase a sewing machine (there are even special sewing machines for beginners), but having a machine will make the work much easier (for those who are a bit clumsy with their hands). Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll be able to give a proud answer of “Oh, this? I’ve made this!” when people ask you where you bought that wonderful and unique dress.
In my opinion, hobbies should be somewhat old-fashioned. This will help us stay in touch with nature and take a step back from the ever-more-frenetic world that we live in. Life used to be a lot slower-paced way back when there were less technological marvels around. Adopting some traits from those simpler times will help your brain defragment, improving relaxation and stress-relief, thus helping you cope with all the hardships that everyday life brings.
Featured photo credit: http://unsplash.com/post/93258573139/download-by-s-zolkin via pexels.com